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2 to 4 February 2005: Africa Unite Symposium

© UNICEF SA photo by G Maritz
Mabutho Shangase, Assistant Director, Policy and Programmes of the South African National Youth Commission getting the South African flag ready for the peace march at the opening festivities of the Africa Unite Symposium in Addis Ababa.

Artists, activists and young people celebrate Bob Marley's 60th birthday

The Africa Unite symposium hosted by the Bob and Rita Marley Foundations was held in Addis Ababa from 2-4 February 2005. The event brought together intellectuals, artists, activists and most importantly, youth from across Africa and the African Diaspora to discuss African unity.  The young people were encouragingly vocal during the symposium.  On the last day, the young people presented ten demands and ten pledges on African Unity, highlighting the critical areas of interventions for young people’s development as well as capitalising on their strengths as agents of change for the African continent. 

The young people's greatest contribution during this symposium was their delivery on ten demands and pledges that they delivered on the last day of the symposium and this was received and applauded by the intellectuals, artist and dignitaries attending the symposium.  Although at some stages I felt that the participation of the young people were leaning towards tokenism - their presentation of their demands and pledges made the delegates sit up and take notice. The challenge now is for these demands to be filtered down to country level and to be taken into account in the run-up to the African Development Forum (ADF) to be held in Addis in June.

© UNICEF SA photo by G Maritz
Gerrit Maritz, Project Officer, Young People's Development and HIV Prevention, with Cidella Marley, daughter of Bob Marley and Portia Phalaphala, at a briefing session on Cidella Marley's new book on the prophecy of her father.

The young people also had the opportunity to hold discussions with, and to be briefed by representatives from the Economic Commission for Africa in preparing for the ADF.  It is worthy to note that the theme for this year’s ADF is Youth and Leadership, and as you will notice, leadership is one of the key focus areas inherent in their demands and pledges.  In fact, a representative from the Marley Foundation has referred to the ten demands and pledges as the Ten Commandments and we trust that on a country level we will be able to drive this process forward through our partnership with the National Youth Commission who has identified local policy development for youth as a priority for 2005.

The symposium culminated on the 6th of February in the 60th birthday celebration concert of Bob Marley, with performances by Ziggy and Rita Marley and UNICEF's Goodwill ambassador Angelique Kidjo.  Thanks to efforts by UNICEF, South African artist Yvonne Chaka Chaka also joined the line-up of international stars and is said she is looking forward to forming sustainable relationship with UNICEF to support children’s rights.

Demands and Pledges

  1. We demand the reconstruction and redefinition of the role, responsibility and structure of the African Youth Parliament in order to gain a greater representation of African youth and our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.  We would like greater visibility of youth matters and to seek the effective implementation and sustainability of programmes that address youth issues.  We pledge our support to achieve an accountable and responsible African Youth Parliament that seeks to address good governance through youth participation at all levels towards unity and the development of the African continent.
  2.  We demand access to quality and free primary, secondary and, where possible, tertiary education in order to employ ourselves and gain knowledge and skills for the development of our countries and continent.  We pledge that each one will teach one and that all skills will be used in our continent for our continent for the benefit of all Africans.
  3. We demand that our history be told and shared with our children and our children’s children and generations to come.  We want the voice of past youths in the struggle for freedom and equality to be told by Africans for Africa.  We pledge to learn from our elders and to emphasize the positives of being African in our communities and to mobilize other youth to unite in Africa through our history.
  4. We demand the empowerment of women and gender equality in all sectors of African society – political, cultural, social and legal.  We pledge that we will immediately as young women and men in Africa, improve the position of women and reduce the vulnerability of girls in our African communities in a spirit of togetherness as daughters and sons of Africa.
  5. We demand peace and reconciliation.  We insist that our brothers and sisters in armed conflict be free from guns and persecution and that their right to live their lives free from violence be upheld, including the rights of marginalized African communities to be treated fairly and to live in freedom.  We pledge to advocate for peace and prosperity in our communities and countries and to resist violence through our actions and to create dialogue in reaching peaceful resolutions to conflict.
  6. We demand that the voice of our young brothers and sisters living with HIV and AIDS be heard and integrated in our continental response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  We demand appropriate and quality youth friendly HIV and AIDS services and health care facilities, free access to anti-retroviral therapy, nutrition and care and support for orphans and vulnerable children in Africa.  We pledge our support to African youth living positively with HIV and AIDS and to fight stigma and discrimination so that those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS can live their lives in dignity.  We pledge to reduce the number of new infections through creating networks of peer education.
  7. We demand that African culture be preserved and free from negative foreign influences and that African culture be promoted and protected within African youth and the illumination of negative cultural practices that keep women and young people suppressed and vulnerable to HIV and AIDS.  We pledge to promote African culture through our lifestyles, music, traditional performance and dress and to develop new literature and other artistic expressions that portray our rich cultural heritage in a positive way.
  8. We demand effective and progressive leadership in the African continent and governments that walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  We pledge to lead by example and to hold our leaders accountable to their actions and promises
  9. We demand a positive African identity that is portrayed to the rest of the world, an African identity that remembers the struggles of the past and that is looking to a bright future.  We will support Pan-Africanism and our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora and will become renaissance youth that will lead Africa to a prosperous future.
  10. We demand multi-level resources such as technical support, materials and skills from local, national and international governments and development organizations to achieve our dreams of unity, peace and prosperity for African youth and children.  We pledge to be accountable for all our actions and develop responsible plans of action for implementing sustainable development of young people in and from Africa.





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